First Look: 420 Smokehouse, a new destination for barbecue in Cabbagetown


The 420 smoked meat sandwich, $12

When Virginia Ray decided to open up her own restaurant, she knew for certain that she wanted a smoked meat sandwich to anchor the menu. Toronto, she felt, was lacking in the smoked meat department. So, she found a chef, hooked him up with the best smoker she could find (a custom-built Southern Pride from Tennessee) and let him do his thing.

Her new 45-seat restaurant, 420 Smokehouse, opened in Cabbagetown at the end of January. The chef, Ryan Gatner, was previously a cook at Centro, and he spent three years as a sous chef at Gallery Grill. As a pitmaster, he’s self-taught. For a while, he sold ribs and other barbecued items at farmers’ markets around town.

For his smoked meat, Gatner brines beef brisket for seven days, then air-chills it overnight. He then layers on a (secret) spice rub and smokes the meat for around 12-hours — usually with sugar maple, but sometimes with a bit of hickory, too. The sandwich is served with house-made mustard and light rye bread from Dimpflmeier Bakery.

The product is technically Montreal smoked meat, but Gatner prefers not to label it that way because a) he doesn’t like the Canadiens and b) this isn’t Montreal.

“I want Toronto to become recognized for smoked meat,” Gatner says.

The menu has some barbecue standards on it, such as St. Louis ribs ($18/half rack), along with some not-so-common items, such as jerk pickerel ($22) or an Italian-style sandwich with calamari ($12). Oysters ($10 for four) are quickly placed into the smoker to give them a tinge of smoky flavour.

Currently, 420 Smokehouse is open six days a week for lunch and dinner (it’s closed Mondays), but the plan is to get into weekend brunch soon.

420 Smokehouse, 420 Parliament St., 416-924-5858

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